Shedding for the Wedding: TV Review

Patrick Wymore/The CW
A Biggest Loser-Bridezilla mash-up, Shedding for the Wedding is feel-good reality TV for viewers and contestants. 

The CW series, hosted by Sara Rue, premieres Wednesday night at 9 p.m.

In Shedding for the Wedding, the new reality show bowing Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the CW, the producers behind The Biggest Loser have ingeniously combined two multi-billion dollar industries for one pathos-filled hour of reality TV.

Two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are no reliable statistics to determine the percentage of American women who become bridezillas the minute they wheedle that engagement ring from their boyfriend, but anecdotal evidence suggests their numbers are also on the rise. Both of which should make Shedding for the Wedding infinitely relatable to millions of potential viewers.

The show gives nine couples a chance to win their dream wedding by losing the most proportionate weight. The show employs two personal trainers, a dietician and a wedding planner. Sara Rue – who has become a statuesque beauty since playing the pudgy heroine of ABC’s Less Than Perfect – is the host.

Each week trainers Nicky Holender and Jennifer Cohen put contestants through wedding-themed physical challenges. Some are rather rote, like a dance-off in the premiere episode, while others are outlandishly entertaining. Next week, contestants must carry multi-tiered wedding cakes through an obstacle course that includes a swimming pool. Couples also learn how to reform bad eating habits; preparing their own healthy meals with the guidance of the show’s registered dietician, Ashley Koff. And wedding planner Brian Worley works with contestants to create their own personal fairy tale wedding.

The end of each episode brings the dreaded weigh-in with the two couple who loose the least weight each week facing off in a final “death do us part” challenge to determine who goes home. This is where Shedding most resembles Loser. Shirtless men, their fiancée’s in sports bras, stand nervously under garish spotlights as the scales measure every last ounce. (Why do scales seem so mercilessly slow on these shows?) But the show does not cast each week’s losers away entirely. The finale will bring back eliminated couples for one more weigh-in. In an effort to hit a positive note, the couple that has continued to lose the most weight at home will win their fantasy honeymoon.

As with most reality shows, success depends heavily on casting. Taylor (235 lbs.) and Peter (210 lbs.) met online playing final Fantasy XI together. They epitomize the sedentary online generation. “We just gained weight from being lazy and eating a lot,” says Taylor.

During a session with Koff, the dietician, Peter tells her: “I can’t think of any vegetables that I actually like.”

“Do you like spinach,” Koff asks encouragingly.

“Probably not,” shrugs Peter.

Ginny (179 lbs.) and Marc (241 lbs.) are not only overweight, they’re also pack-a-day smokers. They met at one of the Long Island comedy clubs that Marc owns when they both went outside to have a smoke. Working at the clubs and eating salty, fatty food has taken its toll; Ginny has gained 60 pounds in 2 ½ years. “It’s disgusting,” she says, as a snapshot of her former, svelte self on the beach in a white bikini flashes on the screen.

Laura (190 lbs.) and Austin (260 lbs.) met in a bar; she was the bartender and he was the barfly; “like Norm on Cheers,” she explains. In high school, Austin was captain of his football team. Football is still a big part of their lives – Laura roots for the Chicago Bears while Austin is a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. But now their association with the sport apparently consists of tailgating in parking lots – in one home video they can be seen shotgunning beer.

All of contestants’ stories and struggles will be relatable to viewers, even those who don’t have extreme weight problems. Certainly the self-punishing ritual of dieting during the run-up to a wedding is depressingly common among women. Shedding for the Wedding taps into the universal insecurities of body image while giving viewers something to root for. There is a whiff of exploitation about weight-loss reality shows in general; especially during the weigh-in, which can be a humiliating enough exercise when it’s not filmed for millions of TV viewers. But like The Biggest Loser, Shedding for the Wedding is ultimately feel-good reality that also aims to make its contestants feel better.